Peter Apian, Cosmographia

19 July 2021

Apian, Petrus. Cosmographia, per Gemmam Frisium [Rainer Gemma Frisius]. iam demum ab omnibus vindicata mendis, ac nonnulis quoque locis aucta, & annotationibus marginalibus illustrata. Additis eiusdem argumenti libellis ipsius Gemmae Frisii [Rainer Gemma Frisius]. Published by Köln, Arnold Birckmann Erben, 1574.

Peter Apian (1496-1552) was a sixteenth century German mathematician, astronomer, and instrument maker. His book, Cosmographia, is a treatise on the field of cosmography. Cosmographers tried to mathematically map out the universe, and describe the earth relative to the heavens. It combines the modern disciplines of cartography, navigation, and instrument making.

Apian’s Cosmographia was first published in 1524 and remained popular throughout the sixteenth century, with dozens of different editions published. In 1529, another German mathematician, Gemma Frisius (1508-1555), published an expanded edition of the Cosmographia. Frisius’ expanded edition became more popular and was published more widely than the original work by Peter Apian. Our 1574 edition is the expanded version by Frisius. ‘

There was a practical appeal to the Cosmographia, highlighted in the inclusion of volvelles [pictured below]. Volvelles are paper instruments made of movable parts. Notable in our edition are three out of its four original volvelles. With the volvelles in the Cosmographia, readers could solve problems, such as finding the time at different places or calculating one’s latitude, given the height of the Sun above the horizon.

Volvelle in Peter Apian's Cosmographia